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What is laser eye surgery?

Laser eye surgery refers to the various medical procedures in which an eye surgeon uses a laser to correct common focussing problems with the eye.

If you are long-sighted or short-sighted, due to myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism, your visual image isn’t focussed adequately onto the retina. In these situations, a cool excimer laser can be used to change the shape of the cornea, restoring vision and or reducing your dependency on glasses.

What can laser eye surgery correct?

  • Myopia: Also known as short-sightedness, myopia is a common eye condition whereby light is focused in front of the retina, resulting in blurred distant objects but in focus near objects.

  • Hyperopia:People who have difficulty viewing near objects but can see distant objects clearly may have what’s known as hyperopia, hypermetropia or farsightedness. This is not to be confused with presbyopia, which is the age-related deterioration of the lens, resulting in the need for reading glasses.

  • Astigmatism: This condition can cause both short and farsightedness and is due to an irregularly shaped cornea. Most people have some degree of astigmatism, but after a certain level it begins to affect the clarity of vision.

What Types of Treatment are Available?

The different types of laser eye surgery can be confusing, especially as the same laser can be used in all these operations. Although the procedures differ in small ways they have very similar visual outcomes.

Following a comprehensive assessment, your optician should be able to advise as to the best type of surgery for you based on your specific needs and prescription.

  • LASIK (Laser Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis) is the most frequently used laser correction procedure. Firstly an mechanical instrument called a microkeratome is used to create a thin flap in the cornea. The cornea is then peeled back and the underlying corneal tissue is reshaped using an excimer laser. After the cornea is reshaped so that it can properly focus light onto the retina, the cornea flap is put back in place and the surgery is complete.

  • LASEK (Laser Assisted Sub Epithelial Keratomileusis) is another common procedure that uses a laser to reshape your cornea. Unlike LASIK, the front covering of the cornea (the epithelium) is moved to one side to perform the procedure. Once the cornea has been reshaped the epithelium is then put back in place to heal. This treatment is often used for patients who have thinner corneas..

  • PRK (Photo Refractive Keratectomy) is the longest standing laser eye procedure. Unlike LASEK the front covering of the cornea (called the epithelium) is completely removed before a laser is used to reshape it. The epithelium will then grow back over the course of a few days. This treatment is often offered for those with very thin corneas or have previously undertaken laser eye surgery.

  • IntraLASIK is very similar to LASIK surgery. The main difference is that the device used to cut the flap in the cornea for LASIK is a mechanical device (known as a mechanical microkeratome), while in IntraLASIK the device is a laser. This treatment can be more expensive as it requires more time to plan and operate, the benefits are greater accuracy in flap size, shape, and thickness over standard LASIK procedures.

  • EpiLASEK is another procedure very similar to standard LASIK and is used for patients with flatter corneas or milder forms of myopia. This process uses a blunt, flat blade to hold the epithelium while the cornea is being reshaped. It is seen as a less invasive and relatively less painful than LASEK treatment. In recent years, this procedure is used less frequently due to other preferred options.

  • Wavefront Technology is a state of the art version of LASEK that is tailored to your individual eye shape on a very fine scale. Using computer software to generate a 3D picture of your eye, the surgeon can evaluate not just how much you can see (i.e. your visual acuity 20/20 vision) but also how well you can see (such as fine detail and contrast sensitivity).

How long does the procedure take?

Each of the procedures are extremely quick with the operation usually taking less than sixty seconds. The entire process will take a little longer at around thirty minutes per eye.

It’s recommended to have an afternoon available for preparation and recovery from the treatment.

After your surgery you will be asked to rest your eye for another 30 minutes. Your surgeon will then perform a quick assessment to ensure the operation was successful. The surgeon may recommend that you wait a day or two before you drive, until your sight heals and becomes completely stable. It’s a good idea to have someone take you home from the clinic.

What is the recovery time for surgery?

Healing is relatively quick following surgery and you will begin seeing the improvements within several days. Your full recovery time time will be dependent on the type of procedure you’ve undertaken and you may want to take a few days off from work after the surgery.

Is Laser Eye Surgery Safe?

The current success rate of laser eye surgery is 95%, one of the highest success rates of any operation. To date, there have been no reported cases of any sight-threatening complications. The current chance of blindness from laser eye surgery estimated at 1 in 5 Million.

How Much Does Laser Eye Surgery Cost?

Costs can vary anywhere between £500 to £3000 per eye and are dependent on numerous factors, but the most important to consider are:

  • Surgeon: Surgeons with greater experience and higher qualifications are likely to be in higher demand. This means they will be able to charge more for their services. When selecting your preferred clinic, it’s a good idea to ask what qualifications the surgeon has achieved as well as how many successful procedures they have undertaken.

  • Clinic: Larger ‘high street’ clinics such as Optimax and Optical Express will generally offer a lower price due to their higher demand. However, this may mean that you only see your surgeon on the day of your surgery. Furthermore, if there are a lot competing clinics offering the same service within a small area, they are more likely to offer a lower price.

  • Technology: A clinic equipped with the most recent technology will likely charge more as the treatment is likely to be quicker; more comfortable and more accurate than a surgery with older systems.

  • Your Prescription: You may be charged more based on the severity of your prescription. With some clinics, cost is directly influenced by the time and effort the surgery spend in developing a more personalised, accurate and enhanced procedure.

  • For a more detailed understanding of the charges for different treatments, click here for our costs guide.

    Is Finance Available?

    To make your laser eye surgery more affordable, many clinics now offer interest-free payment plans and alternative finance options over the course of 12, 24 and 48 months.

    If this is something that interests you, fill in our short form and we’ll connect you with one of our advisors who can walk you through the options available to you.

    Is there an age limit?

    Studies have shown that prescriptions have usually stabilised by the age of 21 when the eye has completed its normal growth. However, vision correction may be an option from the age of 18, provided that your prescription has been stable for a minimum of 2 years.

    Although there is no upper age limit for laser eye surgery lens replacement surgery is often recommended for those over the age of 50.

    Requirements for laser eye surgery

  • Pregnancy: The change in the body’s hormones when pregnant can affect the eye’s prescription and distort vision correction surgery.

    In addition, pregnancy can dry out the eyes, which is why most pregnant women can’t wear contacts. If you start the surgery with dry eyes, you won’t heal as well. It is generally considered good practice to wait 6 months till after breastfeeding to begin laser eye surgery.

  • Prescription Drugs: Certain prescribed drugs can affect hormonal balances and vision. If in doubt, discuss any current prescriptions with your Ophthalmologist, certain medications that are well known to have an affect on vision are: Accutane, Cardarone, Imitrex, oral prednisone.

  • General Health: Your general health should be good and laser eye surgery may not be recommended for patients with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, glaucoma and retinal disease. Discuss your general health with your GP to make sure you are eligible for laser eye surgery.

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